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The science behind the art of Tattooing

How many times have you seen actors in movies sporting tattoos and how many times have you thought about getting one. Such instances may be many, except for those who might not be interested in tattoos.

angelina tattooBut for those who think it is interesting and are actually churned by the idea of getting that piece of art done permanently on your body this article would make some sense. And the fact is that the percentage of people interested in tattoos is actually growing in a decent pace. So isn’t it wise to learn the important aspects of the tattooing technique. Wouldn’t it be worth knowing. I personally thought it would be and dedicate this article to all those who have any form of interest in this wonderful art form.

To put it simply, artist make tattoos by injecting ink (yes tattoo ink, although of a different type) into a person’s skin. For achieving this they use a tattoo machine which in many ways look like a dental drill. Oh gosh!! We already started talking about drills. But we have to since it is all about getting under the skin. Anyways lets move ahead. So the electric powered machine moves a solid needle up and down to puncture the skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute. The needle penetrates the skin by about a millimeter and deposits a drop of insoluble ink into the skin with each puncture.

Tatoo Process - puncture

Surprisingly despite of so much of technological advancement the tattoo machine has remained almost same since the time it was invented by Samuel O’Reilly in 1800s. He took the idea from the creation of another great, Thomas Edison. Edison’s autographic printer (used for engraving) served as the motivation behind O’Reilly’s tattoo machine. The main components of the tattoo machine are:

  1. A sterilized needle
  2. Tubes for drawing the ink through the machine
  3. An electric motor
  4. A pedal used to control the vertical motion of the needle

tattoo machinet012339a

The tattoo that you see on the skin of anyone is the ink structure that you see. This ink is deposited in the dermis, the inner (or second layer of the skin). The ink is visible through the first layer of skin called the epidermis (Look at the skin structure photo). The ink stays in the dermis, which is the more stable part of the skin layer, for the entire life of the person.

The Tattooing Process

Now let us look into the various steps involved in creating a tattoo:

1. Preparation Work: As we can understand that making a tattoo involves puncturing the skin and therefore there would be bleeding. So, that means there is always a chance of infection and disease transmission. Thus is requires some precautionary steps to be taken. To eliminate the possibility of contamination, most tattoo materials, including inks, ink cups, gloves and needles, are single use. The other materials used in repeated manner are sterilized under special conditions. The only valid way of sterilizing them is using a autoclave – heat/steam/pressure unit which is also used in hospitals.
autoclaves600x600

Before working on the client the artists wash and inspect their hands for cuts and abrasions. Then, they has to take care of the following things:

  • Disinfect the work area with an EPA-approved viricide.
  • Place plastic bags on spray bottles to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Explain the sterilization process to the client.
  • Remove all equipment from sterile packaging in front of the client.
  • Shave and disinfect (with a mixture of water and antiseptic soap) the area to be tattooed.

2. Creating the design: alien-tattoo-whole-body
The client either chooses a design brought by him/her or finalizes a design from the design gallery of the studio. Once the design is finalize the artist creates and outline of the design in the skin of the client. Then the following three important steps are carried out:

  • Black Work: This is the stage where the artist draws with a permanent line over the blueprint drawn on the skin of the client. The artist use a single-tipped needle and thin ink to achieve the desirable permanent output. It is very important to understand how much to puncture since both more or less of it can be detrimental to the tattoo. If the puncture is more it would cause more blood and pain and if it is less it creates an uneven design.
  • Shading: After cleaning the area with soap and water, the artist uses a thicker ink and a variety of needles to create an even, solid line. Improper technique during this step can cause shadowed lines, excessive pain and delayed healing.
  • Coloring: Depending on the type of design and the coloring requirement of the design the artist puts on lines of color to ensure a smooth finish.
  • Final cleaning and bandaging: Once the tattoo is complete, the artist ensures that he is cleaning the tattoo properly to remove all the plasma and blood. Once that is done the artist puts on a sterile bandage. The amount of bleeding is very minimal and it stops after just few minutes. The client is instructed to put on the bandage for 2-3 hours.

This is how you can get a tattoo done in your body. I know it might sound a very painful endeavor, but the fact is that if you are able to get one done properly and according to your expectation then the feeling is really good (this is from my personal experience). And as far as the pain is concerned it depends on which part of the body you are doing the tattoo. Places like arms and back are less painful but if you are planning to do one on your neck then I must say BRAVO!!

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3 Responses

  1. Well we will get lots of good comments on this article.. but 1 thing is really missing.. ur own tattoo!!!!!!!!! :) please upload that!! :D

  2. I second Debomita. I also didn’t know that the ink resides in the Dermis and we see the design through epidermis.

    Nice Historical Background. As usual a perfect article to read in a sense that it starts from Genesis flows through the Description of the process and in between a nice blend of personal experience and ends with an Open ended phrase for the reader

    I Like the format…and of course the article…

    Tatooo Tatooo Everywhere…I like the first picture and stunned by the second.

    Keep writing…

  3. Very well explained …. I never knew that the ink is injected in such a manner……………
    The pictoral presentation is good and sel explanatory……..
    Would have been better if yu had shared a picture from your personal experience…..